Upset Saturday shook up the SEC division races last week, as contenders went down and new contenders emerged. But as the faces changed in the division races, one constant remains—the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
Head coach Nick Saban's crew hosts Tennessee on Saturday afternoon in one of the SEC's top rivalry games. While "The Third Saturday in October" is dripping with history (despite not being played on the third weekend), it carries a lot of weight in the SEC race this season. Tennessee still has an outside shot at the SEC East title and has Uncle Mo on its side after upsetting South Carolina last week.
Those Gamecocks visit undefeated and No. 5 Missouri on Saturday night in what essentially serves as an elimination game for head coach Steve Spurrier's crew. South Carolina can't drop three games behind Missouri without the head-to-head tiebreaker and have a reasonable shot at Atlanta, so winning in the new Columbia is imperative.
Who wins those two showdowns and the rest of the SEC games in Week 9? Our picks are in this slide show.
2013 Record: 59-9 (1-5 last week), 40-27-1 ATS (3-3 last week)
All lines courtesy: VegasInsider.com
Five-star recruit Malachi Dupre is the No. 1 wide receiver in the 2014 class. At 6'3", 186 pounds, Dupre has the frame that college coaches crave for at the wide receiver position. The Louisiana native has over 25 scholarship offers from all over the nation.
What about Les Miles' recruiting pitch stood out to Dupre among others?
Watch the video and meet a future star at the next level.
Highlights courtesy of xosdigital.com
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Only a week ago, the SEC's dominance of the BCS seemed unquestioned in college football.
Three conference teams were ranked in the top seven of the simulated BCS standings, with three more in the top 15. The SEC champion was destined to be in the BCS title game for an eighth straight season, whether it be Alabama or somebody else.
A week later, after a slew of upsets, only two SEC teams are still in the Top 10 of the official BCS standings. Unheralded Missouri checked in at No. 5, as it's now one of only two unbeaten SEC teams, along with top-ranked Alabama. In fact, only one other SEC team has fewer than two losses—No. 11 Auburn.
This naturally brings up the question: If Alabama should stumble somewhere along the way, could Mizzou win the SEC without a loss, but get shut out of the BCS title game?
The answer is: possibly, but probably not.
The Tigers are currently ranked sixth and seventh in the Harris and Coaches polls, respectively, but are third in the computer rankings. They will have an opportunity to improve their poll positions with games against South Carolina, Ole Miss and Texas A&M still to come. How much of a boost they get in the polls will ultimately decide whether or not they have a shot at the BCS championship.
Since the adoption of the current formula for the BCS in 2004, every team that finished first or second in the final BCS standings has played in the title game, regardless of their computer rankings. It's a beauty pageant with 170-plus judges while the computers are merely window dressing.
With that being the case, Missouri has a lot going for it. First and foremost is the heft of Missouri being a member of the SEC, which has won the last seven BCS championships. While it sometimes may be hard to move up in the polls, the Tigers have come a long way already. In the preseason, they did not receive a single vote in either the AP or coaches polls.
But Mizzou could use a bit of help.
The Tigers will want Alabama to go unbeaten going into the SEC championship game and ranked No. 1. Their ascension to the top (or near the top) of the polls won't be as certain if they face a one-loss 'Bama team or even a one-loss Auburn team in the conference title game.
Oregon and Florida State can both potentially block Mizzou's path to the title game, with the Ducks' position much more unassailable. It wouldn't hurt if either of those teams loses a game. If not, the Tigers will benefit greatly if FSU plays a couple of clunkers against the lesser ACC teams.
Neither Ohio State nor an unbeaten Big 12 champ (Baylor or Texas Tech) poses a threat to Mizzou's upward mobility. The Tigers will be ahead of those teams if they win out. But for the sake of clearing out potential wedge teams in the polls, they wouldn't mind if one of those teams—especially the Buckeyes—lose a game along the way.
Follow on Twitter @BCSGuru
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Oregon, easily No. 1 in this rating of Pac-12 football programs, finally gets a challenge in the next two weeks against conference powers UCLA and Stanford.
A reasonable question with this week's update of the Pac-12 football ratings: How difficult will it be for the potent Ducks against the Bruins and Cardinal? Both have lost in the last two weeks while Oregon continues to steamroll opponents.
If Oregon takes care of business against the Bruins and Cardinal, the Ducks will strengthen their already strong grip on the top spot of the Pac-12 football ratings. More importantly the Ducks, rated No. 3 in the first BCS standings, will take a significant step toward a berth in the national title game.
Even if the Ducks happen to lose at Stanford, that will be a quality loss and essentially a speed bump if they win out afterward.
Their last three games include matchups against Utah (which beat Stanford), No. 25 Oregon State at home and Arizona on the road.
According to The Palm Beach Post, that is a tougher stretch than No. 2 Florida State must take in the next few weeks against North Carolina State, Miami, Wake Forest, Syracuse, Idaho and Florida.
Stanford can resurface in the championship discussion if it survives a difficult final month that includes games against Oregon State, Oregon, USC and Notre Dame.
Here are this week's Pac-12 football ratings:
1. Oregon (7-0 overall, 4-0 Pac-12): The hits keep coming for the Ducks. Oregon has been without starting running back De'Anthony Thomas for four consecutive games, but the Ducks have quality depth in the backfield as Byron Marshall has gone over 100 yards in four straight games and true freshman Thomas Tyner added 99 yards. Last week: No. 1.
2. Oregon State (6-1, 4-0): Opposing defenses know they will get a heavy dose of quarterback Sean Mannion and receiver Brandin Cooks but can't do anything about it. Mannion is averaging 427.4 passing yards per game and leads the nation with 29 touchdown passes. He has thrown for 367 yards or more in every game while completing 68.6 percent of his passes. Cooks leads the country with 76 catches for 1,176 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Last week: No. 2.
3. Stanford (6-1, 4-1): Tyler Gaffney is returning after a year off to play baseball and he's hitting home runs on the football field with his rushing totals. He dominated UCLA with 171 yards on 36 carries last week. If the Cardinal beats Oregon State this week, next Thursday's showdown with Oregon in Palo Alto will be one for the history books. Last week: No. 4.
4. UCLA (5-1, 2-1): The injury-riddled Bruins, whose offensive line is decimated, have discovered their most valuable player is not sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley. It's junior running back Jordon James. He has missed the last two games with an ankle injury. UCLA was ranked in the top 15 nationally in rushing earlier this season. The Bruins have not rushed for more than 80 yards in two straight games and they are now ranked 39th. Last week: No. 3.
5. Arizona State (5-2, 3-1): ASU coach Todd Graham's spread offense, with quarterback Taylor Kelly in command, is a notch below Oregon on the impressive scale. ASU has scored at least 28 points in every game and has scored 50 points in back-to-back games and four times overall. Two of those 50-point outbursts came against good defenses in USC and Washington. Last week: No. 6.
6. Washington (4-3, 1-3): The Huskies are fading fast after an impressive 4-0 start. They have lost three straight in what has become a trend under coach Steve Sarkisian in the last three seasons. Washington has started fast, hit a midseason slump and finished 7-5 in each season. Another 7-5 record will spell doom for Sarkisian in Seattle. Last week: No. 5.
7. USC (4-3, 1-2): The carefree and footloose feel under interim coach Ed Orgeron lasted only one game against Arizona. USC's offense appeared rejuvenated with a season-high 38 points over the Wildcats, but fell back to the form that got Lane Kiffin fired with just 10 points against Notre Dame in a 14-10 loss. Last week: No. 8.
8. Arizona (4-2, 1-2): The Wildcats beat the team (Utah) that made headlines the week before by upsetting Stanford. Arizona can learn from how the Utes stumbled and avoid the same outcome Saturday at last-place Colorado. Arizona is 1-2 in the Pac-12 with winnable games against Colorado and California. After that, UCLA comes to town in what could be a battle for the Pac-12 South lead. Last week: No. 9.
9. Utah (4-3, 1-3): The Utes could not build on their momentum after beating Stanford and now Utah is fighting for its postseason life. The Utes will be underdogs in their next three games against USC, Oregon and ASU. They are looking at the possibility of a four-game losing streak. Will Utah coach Kyle Whittingham survive that? Maybe this year but not next. Last week: No. 7.
10. Washington State (4-4, 2-3): Mike Leach can draw the ire of opposing defensive coordinators passing the ball 100 times (the Cougars set an NCAA record with 89 attempts at Oregon last week), but it will not matter because of Washington State's defense. The Cougars encountered fool's gold when they allowed seven points in a win over USC and shut out Idaho. They allowed 55 points to Stanford last month and then gave up 52 against Oregon State before giving up 62 against Oregon. Last week: No. 10.
11. Colorado (3-3, 0-3): Mike MacIntyre is saying hello to the future today. Why not? He has nothing to lose in what will be at least a three-year rebuilding process. MacIntyre, a first-year coach, took true freshmen Michael Adkins and Sefo Liufau out of their potential redshirt seasons recently to give them experience. Colorado had one rushing touchdown in its previous five games before Adkins, a tailback, had four against Charleston Southern last week. Liufau, a quarterback, came off the bench in his debut two weeks ago in the loss at ASU. Last week: No. 12.
12. California (1-6, 0-4): Defense is a significant concern for new coach Sonny Dykes, whose "Bear Raid" offense can't score what the Golden Bears are allowing. Despite freshman Jared Goff ranking among the nation's leaders in passing yards, Cal is not scoring. The Golden Bears are averaging just over 16 points per game in the last four games. Last week: No. 11.
Please check out Javier Morales' blogs at TucsonCitizen.com.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Coming off an enthralling quadruple overtime victory against Michigan, Penn State heads to Columbus this weekend to take on an unbeaten Ohio State team.
In Bill O'Brien's first trip to Columbus as head coach, Penn State will look to end the Buckeyes' 19-game winning streak and destroy all hopes of a BCS National Championship berth.
2011 was the last time Penn State played at Ohio State, and the Nittany Lions left with a 20-14 victory just weeks after the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal rocked the school. The two teams met last year in State College, and Penn State will look to avenge the 35-23 loss they suffered in that contest nearly a year ago.
Here are five reasons why the Nittany Lions could upset the Buckeyes this weekend.
Last week’s results
No. 9 Clemson (6-1, 4-1 ACC) lost to No. 3 Florida State 51-14.
Maryland (5-2, 1-2 ACC) lost at Wake Forest 34-10.
How will Clemson rebound from the Florida State debacle?
The Tigers entered the ACC’s fourth-ever Top Five Matchup, and perhaps the ACC’s biggest game ever, feeling pretty good about themselves. They’d won their last Top 10 matchups against Georgia and LSU, and a win over Florida State would cement them in the BCS National Championship conversation. Instead, Dabo Swinney’s bunch spent this week trying to figure out what went wrong following a 51-14 embarrassment, the program’s worst home loss since 1998.
Now, the question for Swinney is this: how does he gets his team refocused to face a Maryland team that is reeling following the loss of its two best receivers (Stefon Diggs and Deon Long) to season-ending broken legs?
“The biggest thing is Clemson. Let’s get back to work. Our guys are eager to play again and I think that's a good sign,” Swinney said. “I think any time you lose a ballgame you wish you could play again tomorrow.
“That’s one thing about football that’s tough. You have to wait a whole week to go out prove that you are better than you showed last time out. It’s not like baseball or basketball where you can come out the next day and have another chance. I’m proud of our team for how they have responded. Everybody is taking accountability and we just have to take great pride in our preparation.”
Senior right tackle Brandon Thomas said the rebound process began in the locker room following the game, and that Clemson can still challenge for a BCS at-large berth.
“Right then and there, we needed to let the young guys know that the season’s not over,” Thomas said. “Don’t put your head down. Keep your head up. You fought hard, just didn’t go your way. The season’s not over."
Can Clemson’s offense get on track?
Over the last two weeks, Clemson has amassed just 28 points, which includes a Vic Beasley fumble return touchdown. Florida State outgained Clemson 565-326 and offensive coordinator Chad Morris said his unit was “consistently inconsistent,” struggling to run its base offense and had only one player playing well: Thomas.
Swinney and Morris stressed going “back to the basics and working on fundamentals."
“We’ll major in the minors this week,” Swinney said. “Stands, starts, footwork. Treat them like they don’t know anything. Sometimes you have to do that to get consistency. We have a lot of guys who know a lot about football and sometimes they take little things for granted. The little things lead to the big things. When we get the little things correct, we can do big things.”
Who will play quarterback for Maryland?
C.J. Brown led Maryland to a 5-0 start but was knocked out of the Terrapins’ 63-0 loss to Florida State with a chest injury. Backup Caleb Rowe threw for 332 yards in a 27-26 win over Virginia, but Brown started last week at Wake Forest. He left with a concussion, and Rowe threw for 207 yards and a touchdown. This week, Maryland coach Randy Edsall told The Baltimore Sun Brown wasn’t fully healthy and has declined to name a starting quarterback. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said both quarterbacks are similar in their running and throwing styles, but it is always preferable for a defense to know exactly who they’ll be going against on Saturday afternoon. Edsall holds all the cards, in that sense.
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Place: Byrd Stadium, College Park, Md.
Radio: Clemson and Maryland radio networks (regional)
Spread: Clemson -13 via vegasinsider.com
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes for this article were obtained directly by the author.
Connect with Greg on Twitter @gc_wallace
The Arizona Wildcats return to the road after a brief trip home, facing Colorado on Saturday in a Pac-12 South game.
Arizona (4-2, 1-2) is coming off a 35-24 win over Utah, rallying from a 21-20 deficit with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. Colorado (3-3, 0-3) rolled to a 43-10 win over FCS opponent Charleston Southern (7-1) at home, a game the Buffaloes added midseason to replace a weather-canceled game against Fresno State.
Colorado holds a 13-2 edge in the all-time series with Arizona, but most of those meetings came prior to 1960. Since Colorado joined the Pac-12 three years ago, the teams have split, with both winning at home. Arizona beat the Buffs 56-31 in Tucson last November, while Colorado scored a 48-29 decision over the Wildcats in 2011.
When: Saturday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m.
Where: Folsom Field, Boulder, Colo.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: Arizona IMG Radio Network; KOA (Colorado)
Line: Arizona is ranging from a 14-to-17-point favorite in various Las Vegas sports books, according to VegasInsider.com.
A week after winning a second half slugfest against rival USC, the 5-2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish leave the cozy confines of Notre Dame Stadium and head to Colorado Springs, where Troy Calhoun's Air Force squad awaits.
For Irish head coach Brian Kelly's offense, a unit that came to a screeching halt after backup quarterback Andrew Hendrix entered the game, Tommy Rees' return—and the Falcons' 118th ranked defense—should get this group get back on rhythm in a hurry. But Bob Diaco's defense will be in for a challenge, playing the first of two consecutive option offenses.
Coming off another loss in the final minutes, Air Force may be 1-6, but they had an extra week to get ready for a date with the Irish, an always-motivating opponent. But the Falcons will need to sort out a jumbled quarterback position and fix a young, inexperienced defense if they want a chance at winning.
Here's everything you need to know before the Irish and the Falcons play.
Time: 5:06 p.m. ET
Place: Falcon Stadium, USAFA, Colo.
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: IMG College Sports, SiriusXM channel 129
Spread: Notre Dame -19.5
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained first hand. Follow @KeithArnold on Twitter.
For many people, what goes on outside of the stadium can be even more entertaining than what happens in those 60 wild minutes on the gridiron.
Only college football can grab the nation's attention all day on a fall Saturday and send millions of Americans flocking to parking lots across the country.
This Saturday brings about another day of beer, brats, bands and bags at colleges throughout the nation, while College GameDay rolls into Eugene, Oregon as the No. 3 Ducks host No. 12 UCLA.
Here we rank the best tailgating sites throughout the nation in Week 9.
The Arkansas Razorbacks continued their free fall with the biggest loss of the season thus far, 52-0, at the Alabama Crimson Tide. Head coach Bret Bielema's Razorbacks have now been outscored 104-7 in the last two games.
It was an all-around abysmal outing for Arkansas. The defense gave up 532 yards of offense, including 352 on the ground, and the offense couldn't do anything. The ground game wasn't terrible, netting 165 yards. But, the same can't be said for quarterback Brandon Allen.
You can sum up his latest performance in one word: absolutely terrible. Okay, that's two words, but the absolutely had to be added because he was that bad.
The sophomore finished the game 7-for-25, passing for no touchdowns and two interceptions with a grand total of 91 yards.
His accuracy has been a huge problem. After Saturday's 28.0 completion percentage, the worst of his young career, Allen's percentage for the year is at a lowly 44.9 percent. He's simply not making good throws and it makes it worse that he doesn't have a very reliable receiving core aside from freshman tight end Hunter Henry.
So, what is it that has made Allen struggle so much just to complete a pass?
There's a number of things, but the main two are bad decision making and poor timing on his throws. Watching the tape on him, Allen has made many poor decisions that leave you scratching your head.
Take his first interception of the game against Alabama, for example. The Crimson Tide were lined up in a cover two, so the corners and linebackers were in man coverage while the safeties were in a zone. Allen was targeting Henry, who was manned up against the linebacker. He let Henry run past him a bit because the safeties in the zone offered help over the top.
Allen failed to recognize this and kept his eye on Henry the whole time. Both safeties saw it and closed in on Henry. The linebacker who was playing under him tipped the ball and the safety finished with the pick. Because Allen failed to recognize the coverage, he threw into triple coverage and gave the Alabama secondary an easy play to make.
Here, you can see the play, as well as some other highlights from the game:
Bo Mattingly of Sports Talk With Bo pointed out what ESPN's Todd Blackledge said: he's just not putting himself in good position when throwing:
Coaches can drill various coverage schemes and fundamentals of the position into quarterbacks heads, but they can't make them translate that to the field.
That's ultimately up to the guy under center and Allen hasn't shown the mental capacity to pick up on defensive coverages and adjust accordingly. He's also had problems timing his throws.
It has happened multiple times in every game he's played in. He gets a pass in the first few games, as he is in his first season as the starter and needed time to get on the same page as his receivers. That should have taken no longer than three games, but Allen is still making bad passes that are nowhere near on target.
He's had countless passes that have been behind, over and too far in front of his receivers. In his defense, Allen has dealt with a shoulder injury he sustained against Southern Miss all season and it has kept him from practicing regularly.
However, even that is no excuse for how Allen is playing right now.
Going forward, he's going to have to show improvement because the last five games are going to show if he's going to be the guy for the next few seasons, or if 4-star commit Rafe Peavey's career will get an early start.
Fan unrest is growing with each game that Allen continues to underachieve. He has the potential to be a very good quarterback, but if he can't get his timing down and make better decisions he won't be the starter come 2014.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
One week after Florida State dominated rival Clemson in what was supposed to be the biggest game of the year and one week after it slipped past Oregon to become the No. 2 team in the country, the Seminoles take on NC State in a rematch of what was the lowest point of last year's season—when the Wolfpack upset the then-No. 3 Seminoles in Raleigh.
This year, FSU (6-0, 4-0 ACC) gets NC State (3-3, 0-3 ACC) at home, and with FSU catching fire at the right time and the Wolfpack on the decline, things could get ugly in Tallahassee.
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Place: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL
Radio: Florida State IMGSportsNetwork
Spread: Florida State by 31.5 according to Bovada.lv
All quotes and paraphrases were obtained either firsthand or via phone unless otherwise noted.
LSU's national championship hopes were dashed last week in the Tigers' 27-24 loss to Ole Miss. Now the Tigers must look ahead to the four games left on the schedule.
The easiest test left on LSU's schedule will be Furman on Saturday night. The game will get ugly quick, as the Paladins have an overall record of 3-4 in a horrendous conference.
LSU will get a bye week after its game against Furman. The Tigers must straighten things out, as their next game will be in Tuscaloosa to play Alabama.
Here is everything you need to know:
Time: 6 p.m. CT
Place: Tiger Stadium; Baton Rouge, La.
TV: Pay-per-view TigerVision
Radio: LSU Sports Radio Network
South Carolina's offense is witnessing the emergence of a superstar running back in Mike Davis. He has burst onto the scene as one of the nation's most versatile backs, one who appears to be built for a balanced offensive style.
Davis is the type of dynamic offensive player that the Gamecocks can construct next season's offense around, when a new quarterback takes the full-time starting duties.
Quarterback Dylan Thompson, who has plenty of experience backing up current starter Connor Shaw, will be the man in charge next year, the one orchestrating what could be a potent offensive attack.
With Shaw commanding the offense, the team utilizes shotgun sets and a more spread-like approach. Once Thompson takes over full time in 2014, the South Carolina offense will look a bit different. And we are about to get a taste of it now with Connor Shaw being sidelined yet again with an injury, this time to a knee sprain.
A Thompson-Davis backfield is a great combination of offensive weapons with complementary styles.
Thompson, the gun-slinging quarterback, seems best suited for an under-center, pro-style offense. Under those sets, Thompson can showcase his passing skills and be a true dropback pocket passer. While he has had some issues at times this season with accuracy, Thompson has a big arm and a lot of potential.
With Thompson presenting a solid passing threat, the window opens for the true power of this offense, Mike Davis. A more potent passing attack will allow Davis and the running game to thrive, and the offense will become less dependent on Davis to carry it.
Davis works best as a pro-style running back, one who can take a traditional handoff and turn it into big yardage or grind away methodically at an opposing defense. His vision to slip through the gaps and his ability to burst into open field makes Davis the ultimate threat as a rusher.
And no one can forget about his pass-catching ability. Thompson will really enjoy having a dynamic receiving back on top of Davis' already stellar running.
As Davis establishes the run and shreds defenses, Thompson and the South Carolina can expand the playbook to include an array of play-action passes. Whether it is out of the shotgun or from under center, Davis' threat to run will give the Gamecocks some golden opportunities to trick defenses with play-action.
With a receiving corps that returns all of its game-day receivers, Thompson could have a field day connecting with the likes of Bruce Ellington, Shaq Roland, Damiere Byrd and company.
While Shaw gives South Carolina a scrambling quarterback, Thompson's pro-style play will help South Carolina's offense maintain some consistency and continuity. The team's experience going into 2014 won't hurt the cause either.
Davis is the beast of this offense, and he can put the team on his back and take the Gamecocks a long way. But, Thompson's presence will bring about a different look to the attack.
The Thompson-Davis combination may take a little time to develop this season. But South Carolina's offense could be reinvented and ready to roll by 2014.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
It was only a matter of time before the sleeping giant that is the Arizona State defensive front seven would awaken.
The Sun Devils' alarm should sound a lot more like an air-raid siren to the rest of the Pac-12 South. Washington discovered firsthand just how dangerous Arizona State can be when it puts together a complete performance, combining aggressive blitzes and deceptive athleticism up front with sticky coverage in the secondary.
"Our guys made a statement with the No. 1 rusher in the country coming in, and holding [his team] to -5 yards," head coach Todd Graham said on Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches teleconference call.
Arizona State put on a clinic. Husky running back Bishop Sankey came in leading the nation in rushing yards. He left Tempe, Ariz. with just 22 more yards than he brought. Not bad for a team that was struggling to stop the rush. "All along, I've known we're better than what the stats were showing," Graham said.
Rush defense was one of the Sun Devils' primary concerns through the season's first half. They allowed nearly 170 yards on the ground per game prior to Saturday's shutdown of Washington.
"We gave up a lot of big plays, long runs—couple against Wisconsin, couple against USC," Graham said. "That's what was killing our rush defense.”
Arizona State snuffed out the big play against Washington. It snuffed out any play, really. Sankey's long carry: Nine yards.
Reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton and fellow tackle Jaxon Hood bottled Sankey up in the middle, which allowed their counterparts on the outside to rush effectively.
It was a showing reminiscent of last season, when Arizona State made 51 sacks. It had just 10 before Saturday, but made up for lost time against Washington with seven. Graham cited new starters and players adjusting to different roles early into the season.
"We had a couple of new spots," he said. "We had some alignment issues at our outside linebacker [and] our Spur position."
Chris Young moved back to the Spur. Manning the inside linebacker position is Salamo Fiso, who made two sacks on Saturday.
While Sutton and stat-stuffing linebacker Carl Bradford were returning from the outstanding 2012 front seven, the Sun Devils had other pieces like Fiso to get up to speed.
"We play a four-down front, we play a three-man front," Graham said. "Our guys are very smart and able to execute a lot of schemes."
High football IQs or not, the intricacies of Arizona State's blitz-heavy scheme needed time. But now that the Sun Devils are finding their rhythm, the championship-caliber team pundits were touting in the preseason is starting to show.
Arizona State finished just behind defending division champion UCLA in the preseason media poll, with 10 votes to the Bruins' 12.
Heading into the back-stretch of the schedule, it certainly looks like the South is coming down to these teams. The Sun Devils have to like their chances. Their style poses challenges to UCLA, as the similarly aggressive Stanford Cardinal stymied the Bruins last week.
Quarterback Brett Hundley took four sacks and was hurried nine times. Stanford led the nation in sacks a season ago. Right behind it? Arizona State.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer for B/R. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Follow Kyle on Twitter: @kensing45.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
The Ducks are coming off another easy win, which improved their record to 7-0. The Bruins lost to No. 6 Stanford on Saturday in a game that made them look average. UCLA needs to return to the form it showed in the first five games of the season.
In its past 11 games, Stanford has beaten UCLA three times and Oregon once, proving its ability to shut down offenses that rely on speed and athleticism. Oregon has a fast and aggressive defense, but UCLA's offensive style matches up better against a defense like the Ducks.
The Bruins have the athletes and the speed to keep up with the Ducks if things fall in their favor, but traveling to Eugene on the heels of their first loss of the season could be too much to overcome.
Even with a loss to Oregon, UCLA would still control its own destiny because Arizona State must travel to the Rose Bowl on Nov. 23. If UCLA loses to Oregon and goes on to win the rest of its regular-season games, this could serve as a Pac-12 Championship Game preview.
Here's everything you need to know:
Who: No. 3 Oregon Ducks (7-0) vs. No. 12 UCLA Bruins (5-1)
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Place: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.
Radio: Oregon Sports Network, UCLA IMG Sports Network
All quotes and paraphrases were obtained either firsthand or via phone, unless otherwise noted.
Forget the BCS standings, No. 4 Ohio State just needs to figure out a way to dominate a game from start to finish.
The Buckeyes have been living on the edge in their last three games. Head coach Urban Meyer told the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com) that he has learned to just enjoy the wins, but he may want to hire a cardiologist if this continues. His team needs to make his life a little bit easier.
In nonconference play, the Buckeyes started fast, outscoring opponents 123-14 in the first quarter. In the Big Ten, the offense has struggled coming out of the gate, outscoring opponents just 27-24 in the first quarter.
The level of competition certainly has been much higher, but the Buckeyes are too good to be in close games against inferior opponents.
When Ohio State is playing well, it is probably unbeatable in the Big Ten. This does not mean a team can’t topple the Buckeyes them. The upsets across the country over the last two weeks have shown that taking any team lightly is a recipe for disaster.
Ohio State definitely wants to win the Big Ten, but it has higher aspirations too.
Here are three areas the Buckeyes must improve to avoid any upsets and make their fourth BCS National Championship Game.
Ohio State’s red-zone defense has been suspect all season. In 21 trips, opponents have scored 81 percent of the time. The Buckeyes have allowed three rushing touchdowns and five field goals, which is reasonable. The concern is they have given up nine passing touchdowns.
Miscommunication seems to be the root of the problem. The linebackers and secondary are blatantly missing assignments, which is leaving receivers wide open to catch easy touchdowns.
Fans in Columbus are getting a little nervous, but these mistakes are correctable. Meyer told the media during his weekly press conference (h/t Cleveland.com) that he knows the proper adjustments will be made and the players are capable of playing better.
If he’s right, all will be fine.
With three returning starters, including All-Big Ten cornerback Bradley Roby, the secondary was supposed to be the strength of the defense as the new starters up front gained experience. So far, that has not been the case.
Whether it's jumping routes, taking poor angles or flat out missing tackles, the secondary has been underperforming.
The Buckeyes are currently ranked No. 78 in the FBS, giving up 240.7 passing yards per game. They have also allowed 20 passing plays of 20-plus yards.
Part of the issue has been defensive game-planning for the Big Ten opponents.
Wisconsin (296 rushing YPG), Northwestern (175 rushing YPG) and Iowa (196 rushing YPG) thrive on pounding the ball. Shutting down the rushing attack had to be the top priority, and it worked. The Buckeyes held the Badgers, Wildcats and Hawkeyes to a combined 328 yards on the ground.
With so much emphasis on stopping the run, the secondary was bound to be vulnerable at times. What has been so surprising is how confused it has looked while getting burned by second-tier talent.
Roby’s inability to lock down the opposition's No. 1 receiver has been shocking.
Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis is a solid receiver, but Roby had to hold and tug on him all night. It still did not work, as Abbrederis finished with 207 yards and one touchdown.
The following week, Northwestern wide receiver Rashad Lawrence finished with 149 yards. In the Iowa game, Roby was ejected in the first quarter for a targeted hit against tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz.
Roby’s junior season has been erratic and the Buckeyes need him to turn it around quickly if they want to stay undefeated. Upcoming games against Penn State, Indiana and Illinois will test the secondary’s resolve. All three teams rank in top 30 in passing yards per game.
Meyer said Roby has been practicing hard and expects a big game out of him this week against the Nittany Lions.
The games against Penn State are typically hard-hitting, which bodes well for Roby. If he plays well, it would be a nice springboard for the home stretch in November.
Progression of Braxton Miller
Similarly to Roby, quarterback Braxton Miller’s junior season has been up and down. After suffering a minor knee injury in the San Diego State game, he had to patiently watch backup Kenny Guiton set the world on fire over the course of three games.
This had many Buckeye fans thinking Guiton was better-suited to run Meyer’s offense. Of course, this is ridiculous, but the Bucknuts are hard to please.
Miller returned to the lineup against Wisconsin and played extremely well, passing for 198 yards and four touchdowns. He laid an egg at Northwestern, passing for 203 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He also had two fumbles. Quiet chants for Guiton could be heard back in Columbus.
With a bye week to regroup and prepare for Iowa, Miller delivered one of his finest performances. This game exemplified his vital importance to this Buckeye team.
Making play after play, he kept several drives alive in the second half. He finished the game 22-for-27 for 222 yards, two touchdowns and 102 rushing yards.
For the first time since Week 1, Miller appears to be healthy. This is great news for the Buckeyes. They need him to take it to the next level and have a monstrous second half of the season.
If he does, Ohio State will win the Big Ten Championship and be primed to make the BCS National Championship Game.
Ohio State is battling more than just issues on defense. Most people think the Buckeyes should comfortably win each week in the mediocre Big Ten, but the Buckeyes’ reputation is not meeting the team's expectations.
Close games are why the squad is suffering in the polls.
The Buckeyes will face a lot of pass-happy teams over the next six weeks, and that is actually good news. They might face Oregon or Florida State down the road, and the Ducks and Seminoles are two of the best at slinging the ball. Ohio State’s secondary needs a few tests before it goes up against one of these offensive powers.
For better or worse, the Buckeyes are winning their games. This matters most in the BCS system. They'll need a little luck to make it to the title game, and they’ll need to fix the passing defense to win it.
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